Europe and games with borders

The unfortunate and unacceptable invasion of the Republic of Ukraine by the Russian Federation reminded me of the time when television stations all over Europe organized a very popular tournament called Games Without Borders. We were then living in different times, times when the enthusiasm for possible freedom came, fortunately, to materialize in the euphoric opening that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Times of optimism and hope in a Europe without borders, where peace and prosperity would reign from Cabo da Roca to Vladivostok, or, more imprecisely, from the Atlantic to the Urals.

How far we are from this optimism and this hope.

Today we are once again experiencing the despair and anguish of war in our Europe. We are reliving the great nightmare of the Cold War and the terror of the nuclear threat. So much so that a moderate analyst, like Martin Wolf, declares in his latest Financial Times column that Vladimir Putin, as master of a vast nuclear arsenal, is perhaps the most dangerous man who ever lived.

Today, and this is the main thing, whatever the outcome of the unspeakable conflict in progress, Europe will not return so quickly to the Games without borders, but, unfortunately, at a time when they are again unavoidable in geopolitical games and, more seriously still, of the daily suffering of Europeans.

It is true that, as can be seen in the current conflict, one of the permanent facts of the conflict in Europe (and this had already been in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and in the subsequent crisis in the Balkans in mid-1990s of the last century) is the domination of space and its sharing; or, to put it another way, the territory and its limits, the Nomos of the Earth, to use Carl Schmitt’s designation. But surely many of us, after so many years of building peace through law, would hardly expect to return to that realm of fear and brute force in which humans, like predators of the savannah, s have fun tackling clan trophies on the side. .

It turns out that this return to the borders was already announced: first with the radical resistance to new migratory flows, then with the pandemic scourge, to end with what has collapsed on us, war and its usual apocalyptic knights in the plains of these Gates of Europe of its name Ukraine (Serhil Plokhy).

It is here, in this new Wasteland, that the Games with the Borders take place. It is also in this cold terrain, covered in white snow, that after 22 years of reign over what he considers the Land of God, the brand new Tsar of All Russia, Vladimir Putin, plays his last card to conquering the Iron Throne. of the vast Eurasian peninsula.

Thus, in a world increasingly enveloped by the polyarchy of factual powers, European citizens are astonished, indignant, waking up from the romantic lethargy of a world of Venus, witnessing the unexpected return of the world of Mars. They must relearn to live with the world of things, to live again in the world of the real, hard, thick, which puts their hands in the dough and not only in the world of the image, of the surface, of the similarity, of the virtual, liquid modernity.

It is then through war, this mother of all things, to use the words of Ernest Junger, which brings Europeans back to exaltation, to the world of life. It’s the borders that are coming back, it’s the lines of demarcation, like the ideological, cultural, ethnic and religious files that are coming back in force, threatening to put an end to the golden age of the second deliberative globalization.

Which is still a great paradox, when in today’s urban life, clean, without pain or death nearby, borders were thought to be only in screened windows, in the high walls of condominiums, in the systems of video surveillance of the streets without Peoples, Europeans must again think about defence, security, the protection of their borders, the quality of their fortresses, the size of their armies.

A crisis that is still a clear revenge of geography, because faced with the post-pandemic imposition of digital nomadism, it is with immense sadness that we are once again witnessing true nomadism, the hordes of all those fleeing war , the zone of hyper confrontation – true, in the end, of all those who do not want to play the new Border Games.

Last but not least, a crisis of liberal, fragile, a-religious, post-historical Europe, which risks losing to an illiberal, crude, violent, religious, orthodox, neo-primitive Europe, like that great European George Steiner .

And unfortunately for our sins, as they say, the Russia of today, the Russia of Putin and his gurus, like Ivan Ilyin and Alexander Dugin, is the most obvious face of this second Europe. A Europe under the yoke of a theological empire, of Orthodox roots and nature, based on the Russian soul, as the chosen people, which needs a living space to realize its xenophobic and totalitarian utopia where the State omnipresent dominates against an individual deprived of rights. An empire with a retouched face, but founded on old Slavic resentments, which recalls the unfortunate journey of all bloodthirsty dictators, for whom staying in history means dominating the world by subjugating others, like servants, around them.

As for the optimism and the hope for a better world with which I began this text, one can only remember Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the current European Union, when he says that Europe will be a victim of its crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted to resolve these same crises.

José Conde Rodrigues, President of the European Movement in Portugal

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